Louisiana’s Congressional primaries are now less than a week away. Early voting for the Congressional primaries has concluded, although mail in/faxed ballots will still be accepted up until Friday. We are keeping track of the early voting numbers, and what we’ve noticed so far is as follows:
(1) We expect that the Congressional primaries will be a low turnout affair, based on the early voting volume. Overall, 26214 early votes have been cast. We project that in the end, there will be (because of mail in ballots not yet sent in/tabulated) an early voting volume of 26700. This equates to an estimated 6-18% overall turnout. To put this figure in perspective, in the moderate turnout 2007 Governor’s primary, 139400 early voted. And in the high turnout 2008 Presidential race, 283500 early voted;
(2) While there are contested Democratic and Republican primaries statewide for the Senate and in four Congressional districts, Republican enthusiasm has consistently been higher than the Democrats/Independents (Independents can vote in Democratic primaries). In a state where Democrats and Independents outnumber registered Republicans 2.9 to 1, 3.6 Republicans yesterday have shown up so far for every Democrat/Independent who did. Overall, 55% of the early vote was cast by Republicans, 40% by Democrats, and 4% by Independents. This level of GOP enthusiasm is unprecedented. Overall, in 44 parishes, more Republicans physically showed up, with especially strong Republican early voting turnout, percentage-wise, in Iberia, Lafourche, St Martin, St Tammany, and Terrebonne;
(3) Curiously, a significant number (20%) of the early ballots cast were mail in ballots, while 80% early voted in person. For comparison’s sake, in 2007 and 2008, 95% voted in person and 5% mailed in their ballot;
(4) To put the Republican early voting enthusiasm (i.e., the 55-40% lead) in perspective, in the 2007 Governor’s race, Democrats led 52-36% in early voting, while in the 2008 Presidential race, Democrats led 58-29%;
(5) To what extent are Congressional primaries driving this turnout ? For the Democrats, not at all, while for the Republicans, it has helped quite a bit. While the Senate primaries are at the top of the ballot, there are also four contested House primaries. Democrats are holding Congressional primaries in the 2nd Congressional District (most of New Orleans and the Westbank) and 4th Congressional District (northwest Louisiana). Republican primaries are in the 3rd Congressional District (“Bayou country” between New Iberia and St Bernard Parish) and 5th Congressional District (northeast and central Louisiana). When we looked at the parishes where Democratic Congressional primaries are being held, we noticed that 0.5% of Democrats/Independents early voted, which equals the statewide average. If we look at the parishes where Republican Congressional primaries are being held, we find that 2.9% have early voted, compared to a statewide average of 1.9%. In other words, even with a hotly contested Democratic primary in New Orleans, Republicans are even more enthusiastic about their House candidates where there are serously contested races, with the three way Republican primary in the 3rd district between Hunt Downwer, Kristian Magar, and Jeff Landry being the biggest attention getter.
Finally, it’s worth repeating again that we are making somewhat of a big deal about the early vote volume, because when the Legislature essentially established “no fault” early voting several years ago, more and more people have chosen to early vote, so a constituency of 5-15% of the total vote is something a politician would be foolish to ignore – especially in a closely contested race. These early voting numbers are the ones that are typically reported on the TV screen several minutes after polls close at 8 PM.
As a final note, we have attached the partisan composition of the absentee vote in the October 2007 primary and the 2008 general election so you can see how significant the GOP early voting has been for the Congressional primary;
John is a political consultant and blogger with JMC Enterprises with expertise in poll sample development and analysis, development of targeted voter files for phone canvassing or mail outs, campaign strategy and demographic consulting, among other things. See his site at WinWithJMC.com for more information.